Opinion: In a league of their own

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie

There’s a picture in my office of my All-Star Little League team from New Rochelle, New York, back in 1959. All of us were posed in our uniforms, bound for the state championships in Poughkeepsie. Two more victories and we’d be headed to Williamsport, Penn., for the Little League World Championships.

We were a motley group: Jews, Hispanics, Italians, blacks and Ryan, our Irish second baseman.  We didn’t care about race or religion. Just runs. Maybe that’s because we were kids. Or maybe because it was baseball.

We were animals: Cubs, Panthers, Colts and Tigers, our team names from regular season. Our players were small in stature but big in talent. Like our shortstop, Larry Seidman, who seemed to absorb every grounder and flick it sidearm to first base. Pete Wagner threw a curveball that mystified every batter. And then there was Dave Enoch, our other pitcher. He either struck out the hitter or actually struck him…on the arm…on the back…on the head. He was so wild that when the other team had runners on base, we sometimes put one of our outfielders behind the catcher.

In the final inning of our first All-Star game, the score was tied. The coach told us all to bunt, so four times in a row we laid down the perfect dribbler. It worked. We won by one run. The other teams called us wimps. The Daily News called us winners…and odds-on favorites the next day. Williamsport, here we come.

In that second game, we were humiliated. I made a diving catch in the outfield, so we only lost 9 to nothing instead of 10 to nothing.  One sports reporter said I was the best centerfielder in the state finals. Three years later in high school, I didn’t even make the team. Baseball can be very humbling.

The other night on the news, I watched the Little Leaguers from Endwell, New York defeat the South Korean team in a 2-0 nail-biter. My wife saw how taken aback I was by the memory of my youth. “Is that a tear in your eye?” she asked.

“Of course not,” I protested. “Everyone knows there’s no crying in baseball.”